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The Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County is hosting a series of events from June 5 until July 26 with the theme called International Happy Valley: A World of Art.
The Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County is hosting a series of events from June 5 until July 26 with the theme called International Happy Valley: A World of Art. CDT photo

It’s easy to see at a glance that Noelia Heitzmann is not a native of central Pennsylvania. Her dazzling smile exudes the warmth of a people that live closer to the sun than those of us here in the far Northern Hemisphere.

The former Noelia Torres Romero, born and raised in Leon, Guanajuato, has emigrated to central Pennsylvania since meeting Bryan Heitzmann, a 1996 graduate of State College Area High School, at a wedding in Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico, where both were guests.

A spark ignited and within a few months they struck up a long-distance relationship via Facebook and Skype and after a few visits south (for him) and north (for her), they were planning their own wedding. The couple has settled in Happy Valley, our mountain-ringed dominion equally inaccessible from everywhere, with no direct flights to any international destination; without even a good access road from the small airport.

Yet somehow Happy Valley is an international crossroads of wide renown. Credit goes to Penn State for making State College and its environs a destination for so many people from other parts of the world. Many of those incoming people are guided by Global Connections, the mentoring organization that helps ensure that all the international people who stream into our area have a safety net and sounding board, in various languages.

This summer the Bellefonte Art Museum of Centre County is celebrating the diversity of our multicultural community, whether brought here by Penn State or through nonacademic encounters.

Similar in format to last summer’s “Food, Glorious Food!” project that celebrated the foods of summer in central Pennsylvania, this year’s program is filled with special events designed to engage the community through social gatherings that focus on art, cultural traditions, music, food, dance and poetry.

It’s a whole series of great events that are free to members of the museum (membership is $30 a person or $40 for a family) and even includes two First Sunday open houses that are free for all.

June 7 is the inaugural event, the First Sunday reception that is open to the public. Artist and art teacher Dotty Ford will run a mask-making workshop for kids in the Creativity Center. Bollywood dancing, organized by Pallivi Pritu, will take place right in the gallery where “A World of Art” is displayed. No reservations are necessary for the First Sunday events, and the Bellefonte Museum hospitality committee will go all out with a tempting array of international snacks.

The first of the four June members-only private events that require a reservation will be June 10 at the museum. The nation of Turkey is in the spotlight, with an ebru (art marbling) demonstration by Gulay Baltali and local artist Diane Maurer-Mathison. Turkish food will provided by the Turkish Cultural Center of Pennsylvania, so come and sample the Borek (phyllo pastries), Pogaca (bread) and Sutlu Tatli (a milky dessert), among other specialties.

The flavors and art of Mexico will be featured June 13 at the Fiesta Mexicano y Mercado de Arte, which will take place in the Restek Community Room, hosted and organized by Heitzmann with the help of her family still residing in Leon.

Philipsburg caterer Armando Saldana will provide Mexican dishes, and Christina Silva will make tamales. Jeff Proch of U-Freeze Wine Slush is donating Sangria wine slushes to chill the guests who take to the dance floor while Sunrise Mariachi band is playing. Dance performances by El Colas and La Bikina Bailando with Carolina Pulido will provide inspiration.

Artifacts and craft items from Mexico, including the beautiful leather handbags that are imported by Heitzmann’s family business, Bixi Awotan, will be for sale in the Mercado, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the Bellefonte Art Museum.

June 17 will bring a change of pace with International Poetry Night at the museum. Mary Gage is host and will introduce Michael Naydan, Robert Lima and Gabeda Baderoon, who will read their poetry reflecting the Ukraine, Spain and South Africa, respectively. Light refreshments will be provided by the museum for this unprecedented international meeting of the mind and spirit.

Families will participate an iconic British tradition when the Mad Hatter stages a tea party June 19 at the museum to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Local herbalist Jennifer Tucker will provide a variety of teas and Bobbie’s Kitchen will deliver classic high-tea fare to include an assortment of tea sandwiches, Devonshire splits and sweets to fuel the celebration. Gallery manager Lori Fisher is the host, and her daughter Norah Fisher will bepuzzle the guests as the Mad Hatter while Harper House plays the beguiling Alice. Rumor has it that the Queen of Hearts will also attend.

The July 5 First Sunday reception will focus on China, and host Michelle Saylor has arranged for visiting teachers from China to offer calligraphy lessons for adults in the main gallery and for children upstairs in the Creativity Center. Yingying Ding and Yahui Tang are visiting the Bellefonte schools under the auspices of the Confucius Institute of the University of Pittsburgh, the Confucius Classroom of Berks County and the Bellefonte Area School District. Chinese refreshments will be provided by the museum’s hospitality committee.

Two members-only events in July will require a reservation. India will be featured July 15 at the Ferguson Township home of Michael and Amy Koll. India Pavilion will provide a wide variety of Indian dishes, and the Society for Indian Music and Arts will entertain with traditional and Bollywood music for dancing under the stars near Scotia Range.

The final event of the exhibition is for members only and will be a French-themed “Monet’s Picnic” at the Barn on Sycamore Lane, an 1815 farmhouse in Julian owned by Lisa and Steve Stem.

This event will be very special indeed as it will also be a launch party for a new book, “Landscapes of Central Pennsylvania,” introduced by the publisher, Ron Pietersma. Artists with works in the book will paint en plein air and the book will be for sale.

The Little Paris Jazz Trio will entertain the guests and French chef Stephane Gawlowicz and local chef Jeffrey Varcoe will provide the French picnic repast matched with French wines. The picnic menu will include Quiche Lorraine (savory tarts with ham and cheese), Pissaladiere (flatbread with onions, black olives and anchovies), Ratatouille en Salade (cold eggplant and zucchini salad) as well as Tuiles Aux Amandes (thin and crispy almond biscuits), Madeleines (a small sponge cake of Proustian fame) and Meringues Chantilly (egg white sweets with fresh whipped cream) among many other items.

If you are not planning an around-the-world tour this summer, come out to Bellefonte and experience the diversity of International Happy Valley right in your own backyard!

Information about the exhibition is posted at where you can also link to a page to join the museum and register for the (free) member’s only events. Seating is limited at the member’s only events but the First Sunday receptions do not require advance registration or membership.